Cell Phone Accessories for Hearing Aids
Although the FCC now requires that hearing aid compatible (HAC) cell phones meet strict guidelines for quality, some hearing aid users wish to further improve their cell phone experience. Add-on devices and cell phone accessories can make cell phones even more compatible with hearing aids.
Many cell phones can be used with hearing aid telecoils. Hearing aid accessories that provide a hands-free option may also be helpful.
What is a Telecoil?
Tele-coil (also known as t-switch or t-coil) is an mini receiver switch found in about 45% of all hearing aids. This receiver is designed to pick up the conversation on the phone and send it directly into the hearing aid where it is amplified using your hearing prescription while eliminating feedback. This is done through induction technology. The phone must be placed directly on the hearing aid for the induction feature to work; distance weakens the signal. If you are unsure if your hearing aid has this feature, contact your Audiologist or the hearing aid manufacturer.
You can also use a Bluetooth device and have the signal sent directly to your hearing aid (some models) or through a neckloop accessory to your hearing aid, as long as your cell phone or other device has Bluetooth capability. Bluetooth does not use induction technology but rather a direct input signal from the device to your hearing aid. Most Bluetooth devices can work at a distance of 30-90 feet depending on the device.
What is a Neckloop?
A neckloop is a necklace-sized wire/transponder that connects to many devices including HAC phones and accessories, and can be worn around the neck as a way to stream sound directly to your hearing aid. Neckloops generate a weak magnetic signal that is recognized by the telecoil and amplified by the hearing aid. Neckloops are popular with many hearing aid users because they can drive both hearing aids and do not require wires running to the hearing aids.
What is an Earhook Silhouette?
Like the neckloop, the earhook silhouette creates a magnetic signal that can be recognized by the telecoil in your hearing aid. It can be hooked over your ear, and it nestles behind BTE hearing aids. It is attached to a thin loop of wire that can be plugged into many devices, including HAC phones and HAC cell phone accessories.
More About Hearing Aid Compatible (HAC) Cell Phone Accessories
It is important to note there are two distinct features within a many cell phones that make them hearing aid compatible. HAC cell phones are designed to enhance a hearing aid wearer's experience while talking on a cell phone through t-coil and/or Bluetooth. If you are not using a Bluetooth enabled hearing aid then the first key feature to look for in your new or current phone is what is known as the "T" rating. This is related to how well it will work with a t-coil enabled hearing aid (not Bluetooth). There are two ratings, T3 and T4. The higher the rating the stronger the magnet in the receiver of the cell phone. The strength of the magnet effects how well the electo-acoustic signal is picked up by the t-coil in the hearing aid. For those that do not wear hearing aids there is also an "M" rating. The "M" stands for microphone. Look for an M3 or M4 rating. This correlates to how loud the receiver (speaker) is on the hearing aid. The higher the "M" rating the louder the maximum volume on the cell phone, independent of hearing aid use.
All major cell phone manufacturers are now required to make HAC cell phones available to hearing aid users, and many also have HAC cell phone accessories available as well.
It's a good idea to visit your cell phone carrier's local store and inquire about HAC phones and accessories, as well as try them out in the store with your hearing aid before making a purchase. Trying the phone with the device will give you a good idea of how well the accessory will work for you.
Keep in mind that some phones and devices may work differently once you leave the store, so it is also a good idea to find out about any money-back or satisfaction guarantees.